By her own admission, Nailya Belkacemi, founder and chief executive of high-end garment manufacturing studio Plus Samples, began her journey in business back in 2003 without really knowing where it would lead her. Intending to create a temporary workplace to keep busy during her maternity leave that appealed to her own enjoyment, Belkacemi started out with just a pattern cutting table in her home.
Now based in a sampling room and production unit in Willesden Green, London with a team of 11 sample machinists, two garment cutters, a pattern cutter and a studio manager, it suffices to say the company has been on an incredible journey. Speaking to the Leaders Council, Belkacemi reveals the inspirations and influences behind that success, and addresses the challenges to come.
Speaking on the Leaders Council podcast with interviewer Matthew O’Neill about how she came to start the business, Belkacemi said: “I started out in 2003 before I was really ready to make the step of launching my own business. It was back then more about using what I enjoyed doing to make a workplace that worked for me. I had a small baby and I wanted a little extra income to fill my time on maternity leave and it turned into so much more.”
From moving into her first studio and hiring her first employee to having a team of people now working alongside her, Belkacemi has had to embrace the many challenges that comes with leading a small business.
Offering her take on the roles and responsibilities of a business leader, Belkacemi said: “A leader should always inspire and lead a team forward. My role is about more than running the company and helping my employees through their work. I nurture them and inspire them, but this is not solely applicable to the workplace. My responsibilities go beyond the studio.
“Maintaining effective communication and setting up clear goals are positive steps leaders can take to inspire people. You have to be focused on outcomes. Business should be process driven, but outcomes are the most important thing, such as ensuring a happy client at the end of it all. In fulfilling our outcomes, we strive to be environmentally friendly and sustainable and maintain the highest possible standards.”
When asked about the inspirations and influences behind charting her successful route into business, Belkacemi mentioned one notable name and one mantra for aspiring entrepreneurs to take heed of.
“Karren Brady inspires me so much as a woman who has started from the bottom and built herself up. However, the message that comes from her story and a mantra I have always stayed true to throughout my life is to be resilient: you have to keep going and never give up.”
Indeed, staying true to those words is exactly what Belkacemi hopes will see her business through the storm of the current climate, brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic which has caused social and economic hardship across the world.
Belkacemi said: “This last few weeks and months has been a very hard time for us. Retail has been badly affected, and our business is connected to that industry. It is unlikely that we will fully bounce back until September or October this year, and so we now have to remain resilient as we always have and that will see us through.
“We are looking at different options to adapt and exploring options like opening the studio more in line with safety procedures and expanding some of our courses to the online domain. We will be working closely with designers and expand our relationships with them. We want to not just reopen but make ourselves literally even more open.”